Happy New Year, Trinity (even though technically at already started in Advent)!
But what a year it is: 2020. Just the numbers alone seem to hold some rare significance, right? Can you believe it?
I mean perfect vision is 20/20. Hindsight is 2020. MMXX.
But numerology aside, this year will no doubt be many things to many people, and my hope and prayer for you is that it is full of God’s love. Full of God’s dream.
A Political Year
There’s another thing happening in 2020 that plans to be many things, many emotions, and many opinions to different people.
In many ways, it has already started and I probably don’t have to tell you how divisive a time we are in. You feel it. I feel it. It consumes many of my prayers for folks at every level and in every party.
It will no doubt be a hard year (and continue to be a difficult decade for our country).
And what are people of faith to do in the midst of an election year, what is the role of the church, the body of Christ, in such politics?
Do they belong in our discourse? Do they have a place in our worship? In preaching, in teaching, and our mission and stewardship? Is this a comingling of church and state?
Lutherans and Politics
These are really important questions.
Martin Luther, in the confessional documents of this church, emphasized that government is a good gift from God. A gift that takes our participation, our stewardship, our prayerful reflection, and our love.
Luther didn’t specify a particular party, whether government be small or large, or even a particular governance structure. But he emphasized that God uses government and the work of the people to establish good order in the world.
In his time, Luther advocated for a social safety net (the first of its kind in Germany), broad public education for both girls and boys, and even supported certain political leaders.
Luther’s political work reflected his reading of scripture, the ministry of Jesus, and his understanding of justification that our good works are not for God’s benefit, but for our neighbors.
That continues to be a healthy way of looking at our role as Christians in public life, politically, socially, and communally. From the pew, to the school board, to the food shelf, to the voting booth.
I want to be very clear: to be political does not mean to be partisan as a Christian. Though we may inevitably choose a party or a person we think reflects our values, ultimately our calling as people of Jesus means that we have a heart and love for our neighbors, whoever that might be. That our primary concern is not only ourselves, but also for others both near and far.
My Neighbor 2020
As we move through this interesting (in a truly Minnesotan definition) year, my dream is that Trinity would be a beacon of hope and inclusion in a divided world. Whatever shade of purple that might be.
That we would stand first not for a political institution, or party, or platform, or structure, but primarily for Jesus’ call and command to love God and love our neighbors. And, that we commit to honest, open and vulnerable communication together and build the spiritual, communal, and emotional skills that will help us stay connected in this chaotic climate.
Thankfully, as the body of Christ at Trinity, folks are already stepping up to help lead in this through:
Continued work to develop civil and respectful conversations.
Educational opportunities that seek to promote peace and justice.
Prayer and encouragement for all who serve the public good.
May this year, and many to come, help us to continue to live as Jesus in the world, loving God and loving neighbor.
Happy and blessed 2020.
For more reading on the ELCA and Politics: